Pursuit of Happiness

Into the deep blue

Scuba diving gives Naveen Munjal, MD of Hero Eco Group a clearer vision of life

“It was the most beautiful experience. All I could hear down there were the echo of my breathing and the bubbling of water.”
That’s how Naveen Munjal, managing director of Hero Eco Group and Hero Electric Vehicles, describes his best scuba diving experience in the Maldives on his 40th birthday, nine years ago.

A certified scuba diver, Munjal had dived 42 metres into the ocean to see the wreck of an old ship. He recalls the clarity of water, which made good visibility possible even at that depth.

Munjal says he was so excited that his breathing quickened and he ended up exhausting his oxygen supply 20 minutes into the dive. He had to then rely on the backup mouthpiece or the ‘scuba octopus’ to stay underwater for a few more minutes.

The Hero Eco Group MD says he has always been fond of water and has participated in many adventure activities during his student days at a boarding school in Himachal Pradesh’s Kasauli. He tried scuba diving for the first time in the Philippines with his wife, while on their honeymoon in 1998. Swimming beside manta rays was spectacular, he shares, adding that he has tried to plan his holidays around diving ever since.

He got a certification for advanced scuba diving in Thailand soon after his first drop and went on to explore the deep blue seas in Europe, Thailand and Greece among other places.

Munjal recalls the time he swam with sharks at an aquarium in Kuala Lumpur. “I asked my wife to join me, but she said someone had to stay back with the kids, and politely refused. I swam so close to one shark that I could touch it. Later, I was told that it was a tiger shark, one of the most dangerous ones. I was just lucky and happy that they were well-fed,” he says, letting out a chuckle.  

Scuba diving has given Munjal some chilling experiences too. “I was once left in cold water with my instructor for over 30 minutes, waiting for a boat after a dive in Thailand. We saw a boat but were not sure how far it was. We kept whistling and waving while the tides were picking up, just before dusk. The boat finally came to our rescue and we sipped hot coffee after we got in,” he says,
adding that he refrains from taking a flight for 24 hours after a dive as it can trigger decompression sickness, leading to fatigue, and pain in the joints and muscles. He also gets headaches sometimes from sinusitis after a dive.

Scuba diving teaches you humility, says the 49-year-old. “You understand that you are just a small part of this world. When you look at the wide expanse of marine life, you learn to respect nature and everything around you. Underwater, you need to act responsibly. Unless you disturb them or they feel threatened, they don’t harm you,” he says.

Heights usually give him goosebumps but to overcome his acrophobia, Munjal tried sky diving in South Africa. It was a thrilling experience to see the curvature of the earth from 50,000 feet above and jump off a small airplane, he says.

Other than adventure seeking, photography also captivates Munjal. The business leader, who usually spends over 100 days a year travelling, never steps out without his camera. With the pandemic ruining his travel plans, Munjal has decided to travel back in time and process the thousands of pictures that he had clicked during his previous escapades — from the Montreal Jazz Music Festival to a bankers’ meeting at the Netherlands.

This is what keeps him sane during this chaotic time, he says. “Processing the photos has been meditative for me. It calms me down,” he says.

Munjal says that all his interests feed his perspective on life, adding different dimensions to it and making it blaze like a jewel or an underwater creature.